Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: MLS ‘confident’ Miami, David Beckham will reach deal

David Beckham, center, stands with MLS commissioner Don Garber, left, and Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez, right, at a news conference at Perez Art Museum Miami in 2014.
David Beckham, center, stands with MLS commissioner Don Garber, left, and Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez, right, at a news conference at Perez Art Museum Miami in 2014. El Nuevo Herald

Things have been awfully quiet on the David Beckham front of late, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening, according to Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.

The commissioner was in Manchester, England, late last week for the SoccerEx Global Convention, and he told reporters there that league officials are “as confident as we have ever been that we will be able to move this forward and finalize a deal.”

It has been more than 18 months since Beckham and MLS first announced amid much fanfare that they planned to put a team in Miami. Since then, the project has hit several political roadblocks. Once their bids for a waterfront downtown stadium fell through, the Beckham group caved and accepted the site adjacent to Marlins Park, where the city owns most of the land.

On July 17, Miami mayor Tomas Regalado and Beckham’s business partner, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, announced they had reached a tentative deal to begin talks about building the privately funded stadium next to Marlins Park.

“He has been trying very hard, as has the league, to get a stadium built and to build all of the support necessary,” Garber told the BBC. “[There has been] a lot more progress lately rather than over the past 12 to 15 months. A site has been selected; it is the former Orange Bowl, where the University of Miami used to play.

“They have to cross the T’s and dot some I’s and finalize a whole bunch of deals with the city and with other land owners, but I am confident.”

Miami has always been an intended MLS market from the launch of the league in the mid-1990s, and the Orange Bowl venue was the initial site of choice. The Miami Fusion joined in 1998 and was supposed to play at the Orange Bowl but because of a political feud wound up playing at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The team had a loyal following of about 10,000 fans, but folded in 2001.

“It was really hard to fold a team in Miami and here we are talking about getting back there with a great guy like David Beckham as owner,” Garber told ESPN.com in Manchester. “He is very smart, very focused, loves our country, loves our league and wants to own a team.

“He has had a lot of fits and starts in trying to build a stadium. You have got to have the right building. We have got to create that new story.”

▪ Haiti-United States friendly: Haiti will replace Australia as the opponent for the third and fourth matches of the U.S. Women’s World Cup victory tour. The Australian players refused to play the matches because of a labor dispute with their federation. The U.S. team faces Haiti on Thursday in Detroit (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1) and Sept. 20 in Birmingham, Alabama (2:30 p.m., ESPN2). More than 30,000 tickets have been sold for both matches.

▪ NWSL semis: The National Women’s Soccer League playoffs continue Sunday with the semifinals. The Chicago Red Stars, led by U.S. players Christen Press and Julie Johnston, play at 1:30 p.m. against FC Kansas City, featuring Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather O’Reilly and Lauren Holiday. In the other game at 9:30 p.m., the first-place Seattle Reign, with Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, plays the Washington Spirit, with Aly Krieger and NWSL scoring leader Crystal Dunn. Both matches are on FoxSports 1. The final is Oct. 1 in Portland, Oregon.

▪ U.S. men under pressure: The U.S. men’s team, coming off an embarrassing 4-1 exhibition loss to Brazil, next plays a crucial match Oct. 10 against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The winner earns a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, the warmup to the 2018 World Cup.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann faced criticism after the Brazil match because he experimented with the lineup, including playing Weston’s Alejandro Bedoya out of position at holding midfielder and playing Ventura Alvarado and Michael Orozco on the back line. The team was out of sync much of the night and will need to play much better against Mexico.

That said, Klinsmann is undefeated in six matches against Mexico, and he remained optimistic.

“It’s a learning moment,” he said of the Brazil loss. “There is a lot of good stuff they can take out of that lesson.”

Who’s leading

MLS: East — D.C. (44), New York (42), Columbus (41). West — Vancouver (48), Los Angeles (46), Dallas (44).

NASL: Ottawa (24), Minnesota and New York (19), Atlanta (18), Fort Lauderdale and Edmonton (16), Carolina and Indy (12), Tampa Bay and Jacksonville (11), San Antonio (10).

EPL: Manchester City (12), Crystal Palace (9), Leicester City and Swansea City (8), Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool (7).

On the tube: Sunday — Sunderland vs. Tottenham (8:25 a.m., NBCSN), Leicester City vs. Aston Villa (10:55 a.m., NBCSN), NWSL semis Chicago vs. Kansas City (1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1), Toronto vs. New England (5 p.m., ESPN2), NWSL semis Seattle vs. Washington (9:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1). Tuesday — Champions League, PSG vs. Malmo (2:30 p.m., ESPN2).